Osvaldo Golijov
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Last Round (1996): Reviews
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A double string quartet with double bass is used to re-create the sound of the bandoneon, the Argentinian accordion that gave such a characteristic flavour and acid edge to Piazzolla's reinvention of the tango, and Golijov's music itself seems to have absorbed and reconstituted the rhythms and sensual implications of Piazzolla's style. A motoric, Bartok-like drive propels the first movement (marked "Macho, cool and dangerous"), while beneath the surface of the very slow second ("A final, seemingly endless opening sigh," says Golijov) is buried the outline of a tune, My Beloved Buenos Aires by Piazzolla's great predecessor, Carlos Gardel. It creates a wonderful diptych, stylistically original yet aware of tradition at the same time, and a fusion of Latin America and Europe that Piazzolla himself would surely have admired.

—Andrew Clements, The Guardian

The work's first movement had the intensity and velocity of a white-hot meteorite speeding toward Earth. The second movement, ethereal and melancholy, benefited from a warm, rich and cohesive string sound.

—Susan Elliot, Atlanta Journal Constitution

Tough, almost violent antiphonal playing, drawing the grit of tango music to the surface but never losing sight of its hypnotic lilt and turns of harmony.

—Bernard Holland, New York Times

Last Round is for double string quartet and double bass, written in memory of Piazzolla, and conceived as an idealized version of his keyless accordion, the bandoneon. The first section's a fierce compression of the squeezebox over violent tango rhythms and wailing impressions of the instrument's reeds — and there's also the idea of the two quartets physically confronting each other, bows flying, a final contest in memory of a man who would get himself into fistfights all his life. Then an exhalation, a sigh, and a song — a rich, sensuous lament... an instinctive and emotional communicator, able to knit these diverse elements into an ear-catching confection that can intrigue, delight and terrify by turn.

—Andrew McGregor, CD Review on Radio 3 UK